2. Debate, Discussion and Dialogue
Humans have been debating, discussing, and arguing since the beginning of time. From the ancient Greek open Agoras for political discussions, to the Speaker’s Corner in London, and the current election debates, discussion and debate have an important part in the evolution of human thought. But what about a smaller scale, including personal arguments, discussions in the workplace, in projects, or debates in schools? Debate and discussion have their place in our life, and each has its own differences.
Debate is combative and seeks to be victorious; it wants to express itself and say it is better than you. In a debate, contestants are always looking for the next opportunity to insert their voice into the dialogue. Its why many of them look like whiny children who simply have to be heard. In the process, it’s clear they aren’t actually listening to what the others are saying. They’re ready to jump in with their talking point.
- Competitive – focus on succeeding and winning, proving others’ logic “wrong”
- Focus on “right” and “wrong” through evidence
- Looking for weaknesses, searching for flaws in others’ logic – critique their position
- Listening is used to form counterarguments
- Focus on conflict and difference as an advantage
- Disregard relationships
- Using silence to gain an advantage
Discussion can be described as debate trying to play nice. True discussions depend upon substance and a mutual desire to learn. This requires humility, where both people agree to put egos aside for edification. The goal is to learn, not win. The difference between a debate and a discussion involves openness. If one or both participants in a conversation are open to new ideas, it opens the way for a discussion. If both believe there is no way they would ever change their opinion in anyway, it will always turn into a debate.
- Conceptual and/or conversational – present ideas, often in “clean” or “sophisticated” ways
- Aim to share information – seeking to staying “neutral” in conclusions
- Seek answers and solutions
- Give answers politely
- Listening is used to find places of disagreement or to gather rational pieces of argument
- Avoid areas of strong conflict and difference
- Retain relationships
- Avoid silence
Dialogue, on the other hand, seeks to find a shared connection. It is not concerned with winning or losing; rather, it aspires to listen more deeply, understand more fully, and build a collective perspective. When the diversity of personality and opinion create moments of conflict and tension, dialogue steps in and mediates the conversation back to a renewed sense of connection.
- Collaborative, towards a sense of community understanding
- Aim to re-evaluate and acknowledge assumptions and biases
- Bring out areas of ambivalence
- Look for shared meaning
- Discover collective meaning; re-examine and destabilized long-held ideas
- Listening without judgement and with a view to understand
- Building relationships
- Honour silence
Dialogue and company culture
A great workplace fosters dialogue and encourages a diverse perspective. After all, these are the very elements that lead to growth and innovation. In other words, dialogue and diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace are interconnected. But too often, dialogue is flimsy in organizations, most likely because if it is practiced so little, it is because it is understood so little.
Four principles of effective workplace dialogue
Let’s explore some of the principles that make dialogue so valuable in the workplace. When an employee or manager engages in dialogue, there are four keys to making it work:
- Suspend judgment
- Explore assumptions
When we suspend our judgment, we temporarily silence our thoughts and open our capacity to engage as listeners.
Greater inquiry into others’ viewpoints helps us better understand our colleagues and adopt new ways of thinking.
When we explore our assumptions, we encounter unchallenged ideas, unchecked biases, and thought patterns that influence and possibly inhibit our workplace engagement. Dialogue is also, however, a very challenging undertaking. Becoming aware of personal assumptions is tough work.
It places us to measure the consistency between our words and our actions and realize that their alignment may not be as linear as we believe. Inevitably, the practice of dialogue asks us to consider that our opinions are not always correct and that others may have more effective methods for approaching situations. Doing this is neither natural nor cathartic, but growth is very rewarding.
Source: The Difference between Debate, Discussion and Dialogue